Something happened at work the other day that distressed me. I work with 2 girls, F, age 8, and L, age 4. Their grandfather came to visit over the weekend, and when I arrived Monday morning, DB was just leaving to drive Grandpa to the airport. As DB was leaving, he said, "Come on girls, give Grandpa a kiss goodbye." F, the 8 yr old, shuffled up to Grandpa, gave him a peck, and backed away. She looked really uncomfortable. L, the 4 yr old, refused to give Grandpa a kiss. She looked totally freaked. The dad grabbed her arm, and said,"You are making Grandpa sad. You don't want to make him sad, do you? Go give him a kiss." L started to cry, DB got mad, and he and Grandpa left.
Now, I realize in the past, we were all expected to hug or kiss our relatives. But in this day of child molesters and teens being pressured into sex, this is no longer appropriate. This scene looked to me like a father forcing his daughters to perform a physical act of affection that they were clearly uncomfortable with. I really feel that this is not ok. If you tell a 4 yr old to kiss someone to avoid hurting their feelings, this could mean a 14 yr old who gives in easily when a teenage boy pressures her to go too far. She might not want to hurt his feelings, right?? The 8 yr old was already giving in, kissing Grandpa just to avoid a negative reaction. We all know that when teenage boys want sex and can't have it, the reaction is almost always negative. How is she going to see that? Will she give in just to avoid a scene?
This got me thinking of all the times moms have told their kids to give me a hug goodbye. I always say to them, "you can have a hug if you want, but you don't have to." I would never want a child to hug me because it is expected, and I would absolutely hate to think they are forced into it. Are these relatives really ok with that? Do they really want a kiss from a child who was forced to do it? That seems sick.
I feel that this is really important to teach children to respect their own bodies, especially girls. We need to tell them that hugs and kisses, as well as other physical acts, need to ALWAYS be their decision and no one else's. Yes, perhaps some older relatives will be insulted, but sorry, the well-being of the children is way more important. Forcing a child to kiss someone against their will is doing irreparable damage to them. Yet this seems to still be happening all over the place. I even had a friend of mine say, "I make them kiss Aunt L because if they didn't, I would never hear the end of it from her!" So this mom is putting her own inability to deal with difficult relatives on her kids. She would rather damage their self esteem than listen to an aunt bitching? I was horrified.
I don't know if I can actually mention this to any parents, employers or otherwise. Is there any way to bring up this perspective without being insulting? If I worded it like this post, parents would think I am accusing them of child abuse, and I would most likely be out of the kids lives. I think that some parents aren't thinking of this in todays terms, they are just remembering when they were kids, this is how it was. Is there any way to educate them without insulting them? - Anonymous
at 11:14 AM